December 7, 2017

Too Many TV Reboots/Remakes/Re-Vamp’s/Sequel Series Revivals/Prequel Series

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Written by: David Baruffi
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I’ve been watching, among other things, the current reboot of ‘Will & Grace‘. One of, many, many, many new TV reboots that are occurring. Alright, I know, I’m not breaking any new ground, Hollywood’s not that original, blah, blah, blah. Still though, this TV reboot caught my attention. For one thing–really? This show you’re rebooting? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love ‘Will & Grace‘ I actually I might argue that it’s one of the more underrated shows of all-time, and had it not been directly up against ‘CSI‘ for so many years, I think it might’ve won more Best Comedy Series Emmys than it actually did. It’s still one of only three series, ‘All in the Family‘ and ‘The Golden Girls‘ being the others, where every original main member of the regular cast won an acting Emmy for said series. I listed it a few years ago on a Top 100 TV shows ballot, and the original series is still funny as Hell, but it was also very much a product of it’s time.

Well, that’s clearly one problem I thought about offhand at least. I mean, it confronted gay stereotypes as much as it, sorta–exacerbated them–but yeah, I think it’s fair to say, that it wouldn’t necessarily be considered kosher for a Jack MacFarland-type character to be on TV today, at least without giving him some ironic qualities. Like making him a rocket sciencist/master pediatrician with a Gold Star from his time at the war and an altruistic streak, or something like that to counteract the flamboyance. Actually though, even weirder that that, in this, particular era where we are more sensitive towards sexually aggressive material, especially physical material played for laughs than ever before, I’m not exactly sure, how well, say this, would come off today:

Or this…

And definitely this:

And probably most of these:

So yeah, ‘Will & Grace‘ got away with a lot in it’s time, more than most sitcoms did then, and definitely more than they do now. Just look at how anything remotely sexual on ‘2 Broke Girl$‘ was taken negatively in the press and the critics, (and presumably most sane people, because that show was terrible) and you’ll see that, a lot of the comedy that was a core of the friendship between these characters, definitely feels reminiscent of a much different time period altogether.

And I still didn’t think that was the strangest thing about the show’s reboot. I mean, this wasn’t a remake, this was a reboot and it’s not a spin-off; although you might confuse it, for a Sequel Series or a Sequel Revival Series. It’s not that either; those are TV shows that actually take place and revisit the characters years after the original television series ended, but continued with the same actors and characters. There aren’t that many examples of those, ‘The X-Files‘ is a new one, this new limited run, or the equally perplexing limited series reboot of ‘Roseanne‘, ‘Fuller House‘, and that that brief revival of ‘Dallas‘ a few years back. there’s more now than ever, and before this latest run of shows, arguably the most successful of these was ‘What’s Happening, Now!‘ and debatably, that ‘The New WKRP in Cincinnati‘ and ‘The New Leave It to Beaver‘ were in a close battle for second-best. At least among sitcoms or Drama Series, this idea isn’t new, but usually you would associate it with say, game shows or talk shows, perhaps some forms of reality series also, (Which they’re doing a lot more of as well, thanks, those precious few years where we thought we had gotten rid of ‘American Idol‘, I will cherish you in my memory)  moreso than live-action primetime scripted series.

So, even within this particularly weird trend, the TV reboot of ‘Will & Grace’ has one bigger problem, which is why it’s not technically a revival series. The way the original series ended. Well, Spoilers, if haven’t seen it, go on Hulu and start, but anyway, the show had this really strange ending where we flash-forwarded into the future and both Will & Grace have gotten married and started families and we see them reconnect after their kids, meet each other and start dating after they move into college dorms across from each other, and there’s a lot of other s**t that led up to those moments that would have to be explained away to suddenly go back to Will, Grace, Jack and Karen, basically in a similar situation to where they started now, so that’s a pretty big retcon they’d have to make, and…- wait a second, I hated that ending.


Image vis ABC

No seriously, why I am arguing this? That was a terrible series ending finale! (Scratches head, long thinking pause) Actually–yeah, nevermind. I don’t-, I guess- normally, I’m more of a, you made your bed, you-better-f**k-with-whatever-you-put-it-in-until-you-figure-out-how-to-kick-it-out, kinda guy, on principal, when it comes to television retcons, but you know what, in this case, yeah go ahead.  (That said, being one of the few guys who not only likes, but loves the series finale of ‘Roseanne‘ and thinks it completely works with the rest of the show and made up for that, otherwise bats**t crazy final season of one of the very best TV shows of all-time, I’m not looking forward to seeing what they’re gonna do with that.)

So, with all that said, and of course, leaving out much of the original important aspects of the period in which ‘Will & Grace’ came on the air, like how it was only a few years after Ellen DeGeneres came out and positive non-stereotypical homosexual characters were rare for television, and it was the beginning of the modern public acceptance of homosexuals that led to such milestones as legalizing gay marriage and reversing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, among other important accomplishments the series can be partly credited for, blah, blah, blah–is the new series any good? Well, eh, yeah, it’s pretty funny. It’s different, in many ways from the original series. The characters are much older and now their activities and priorities have evolved, and Karen’s pretty much sunken into the bottle of her own delusions at this point, and the show is, probably more outwardly political than it’s ever actually been before now, but yeah, it’s still really funny, and everyone’s good on the show, and James L. Brooks is back even, so it’s still a pretty damn good show, and considering the state of sitcoms on network television in general, I’ll definitely take it.

Still though, the idea of these constant reboots for TV, just doesn’t make any real sense in the grand scheme of things. Like, at all. Sure, remakes and reboots, in movies–I’m not crazy about the idea to begin with–but for TV shows? Sure, there’s definitely a good one here and there, and occasionally one that takes an original idea of a series and does some kind of interesting modern twist, Netflix’s Norman Lear-led reboot of ‘One Day at a Time‘ particularly standouts, and I’m sure there’s some defenders for something like ‘Battlestar Galactica‘ or that new ‘Doctor Who‘ everyone’s infatuated with, or one of the old ‘The Twilight Zone‘ reboots or whatever, (Oh, they’re doing another version of that again, by the way, too.) but in general I don’t get why we are so keen on going back to past series as much as we are.

I mean, there’s been like three or four failed attempts in recent years to bring back ‘The Munsters‘; WHY?! What the hell are we gonna do with that? First of all, the original wasn’t even a big hit, it only lasted two seasons, and secondly, what in the hell are some people thinking trying to bring it back? And not only is, the world, such a vastly different place than what it is now, television is so vastly different. If there is any time period, where nostalgia series should and will eventually be failing, this is it! We’re already overloading with more original content than ever before and more outlets devoted to putting it out as well. I mean, I’m just confused as to why we’re getting all these revivals of old material?

Alright, let’s do some comparing to see what I’m talking about. Ehh, let’s try a modern example here, um, hmmm…. well, this atrocity to humankind will probably work:

Okay, before we ask the most baffling question in the history of time, “Why does this exist,” we should first ask, “Why is the original ‘Full House‘, still with us?”

Was it a hit? Ehh, yeah, technically, it was…. it didn’t start off that way, but the last six seasons of the series, the show was consistently in the Neilsen’s Top 30, and twice it broke the Top Ten, but how? Well, I was young and around back then, so I remember how, and despite what you guys might like to believe that this is one of the worst, most awful, cheesy shows of all-time…, the reality is, it usually was the best thing on at the time.

I’m not kidding. Remember back then, not everybody had cable, and cable was not what it is now, so don’t think there was something special that we missed, we didn’t. The best thing on cable for a long time outside of music videos and “Sportscenter” was reruns, so, let’s just compare and I’ll prove it.

1989-’90, the genius TGIF lineup is revived on ABC, and the 3rd season of ‘Full House‘ was the traditional lead-in at 8:00pm, and it was up against, on CBS, four different series, a drama series called ‘Snoops‘ that’s got good people behind it, but was forgettable, the ultimate failure of sequel series, most ironically, ‘The Bradys‘, which was yes, a drama sequel series of ‘The Brady Bunch‘, one of more-than-you-think they had, and arguably the worst of the bunch, assuming you don’t count the Variety Show, also, the short-lived ‘Bagdad Cafe‘ series based on the movie, that was as much a behind-the-scenes trainwreck as it was on screen, and something called ‘Max Monroe: Loose Canon‘ that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. That was CBS. NBC was airing ‘Baywatch’, believe it or not, when it wasn’t airing, another forgotten failed sequel/spinoff series, ‘Bret Maverick‘. Okay, that actually, wasn’t awful, but nobody cared back then, and in a choice between ‘Baywatch‘, before it became popular, and ‘Full House‘, especially if you’re a young kid, and it’s Friday night, which means the audience is young kids, you’re leaning towards ‘Full House‘. (Yeah, I gotta bring that up too, with a few noteworthy exceptions, rarely has Friday Night, traditionally a good television night. Especially back then, Thursday was huge, Friday, got, on average the least amount of viewers of any night of the week generally, ’cause everybody goes out on Friday nights, [at least back then, they did] so that Friday spot is why multiple generations have fond memories of shows that were aimed more towards a younger demographic, ’cause that day of the week, was programmed towards them. You think it was coincidence the show led-in to Urkel?)

Let’s try 1990, Fox actually has enough viewers to register now in the Neilsens and ‘Full House‘ is up against a good show, ‘Quantum Leap‘. which nobody wants me to remind them but, (Whispers) ‘Quantum Leap‘ was never an actual hit… Shhh…. Yeah, I love the show, but check the ratings, it was always a cult series, and part of that is because it never really found a good time slot, (Although I always thought, 9:00pm on Wednesdays, after ‘Unsolved Mysteries‘ was pretty decent for it.) Fridays night was kids’ night. They weren’t watching ‘Quantum Leap‘, or ‘Evening Shade‘ or ‘Uncle Buck‘ or ‘America’s Most Wanted‘ or ‘Guns of Paradise‘. Not that those are technically bad shows either, but I’d probably take ‘Full House‘ over them more often then not, especially as a kid, the audience that ‘Full House‘ was aiming for, and I know I wasn’t alone. Those other shows were trying to attract the other big Friday night audience, old people.

But, ’91, it moved to Tuesday nights, that must’ve been where it finally got killed right? Nnnnope! It was it’s most successful year. It was up against ‘Rescue 911‘, ‘I’ll Fly Away‘, a later season  of ‘In the Heat of the Night‘, which was struggling to find a timeslot and a network at that point, and something called ‘Mann and Machine‘. Oh, and here’s another thing, it was the lead-in for ‘Home Improvement‘, ‘Roseanne‘ and ‘Coach‘! ABC’s Tuesday nights in the ’90s, this is one of the most underrated lineups in TV history! And if you ask somebody, if they were willing to sit through ‘Full House‘ in order to get to those three shows…. Without continuous real competition, I’m sorry, in that context, it’s not as bad as people like to remember it was.

Now, you can go through the rest of the years yourself, occasionally there was something somewhat decent series against, but keep in mind, ‘Full House‘ got big back when there weren’t the viable options we have today, and even when it might’ve almost lost in it’s timeslot, it still had a consistent audience that was big.  For it’s last episode, for example, (Another one of the worst of all-time last episodes I might add…, not quite “St. Elsewhere” bad, but pretty close.) it got a 14.6 household rating, good for the number 7 show that week, won it’s timeslot again and was watched by over 24 million viewers.


Image via ABC

On average, season five of ‘The Walking Dead‘, the highest-rated season that series has, and arguably the biggest-ratings hit currently running on TV, averaged, less than fifteen million viewers, in it’s best and biggest season, and that’s about twice as good as basically, everything else that’s regularly on TV. I did say that the ‘Full House‘ finale, was only that week’s number seven show, remember and it had ten million more viewers and, I’m not counting syndication of ‘Full House‘ ’cause, goddamn, at around this time, it was a syndication cash cow, and it still is. But remember, this was late ’80s-early 90’s, imagine series from like twenty years earlier, when there were even less options to watch on television, how many people were watching, even the crap back then? That’s why a lot of those are referenced constantly, a great or popular novel or song might be referenced, even if they weren’t that great, or even sometimes, weren’t even that big a ratings hit, but compared to now they were huge.

Which is why, I’m just generally more confused than anything about this trend. The primary reason to really bring back these shows, is for nostalgic purposes, which, especially when you’re bringing back the original casts, but at most, they’re getting a % of a % of an audience share now of what they used to get, in those days, and in those days, they didn’t have the choices they have now. Yes, some of these shows remain some great nostalgia triggers for us, and in many of these cases, there’s good reason for that, ’cause they were actually good shows back then, and god knows, we can use more of them than we actually have now. However, the audiences are more specialized than ever, and while I tend to think there’s more negatives to that than positives, does that make it a good idea to bring back and bet your house on shows that were more specifically made-and-designed for a broader audience and market, one that, might not exist now? I don’t think so, and what’s left of that TV audience that does still exist, they probably might prefer that you would also, not bring these series back, fearing those cases, which I’d say was about 50/50 odds-wise, where bringing these shows back might ruin them now, and in turn, harm our love of the original series?

I’ve always had a firm belief that a rerun is an important major part of television, in fact, I generally judge a television show on the basis of comparing it to a random rerun, since, “I can watch a show that I know is good or important enough to re-air years later, why should I watch this new thing instead?”, which is also something that makes this trend weird; it’s not like reruns go away; I mean, movies, sure, maybe update or bring something back from years earlier, back when maybe, not many people saw or remembered the original, I get that sometimes, but the past of television, is constantly in rotation and competition with it’s present. Even in these days of streaming, you’d be surprised how often I’m looking up older series and clips for something, and suddenly, I’m searching the internet frantically for old episodes of ‘Cash Cab‘ somewhere, now, as I’m writing this. I get that this idea of bringing back the past of television will always be around to some extent, and sure, if it produces more shows like ‘Will & Grace‘ than it does ‘Fuller House‘s then fine, but this isn’t a trend that’s got a history of working under the best of circumstances, and this is not that. I’d love for television to go back to the way it was, in many ways, but nostalgia is not going be the thing that brings back traditional television, not in a world where everything is streamed and we get new information by the second of when/if anything ever happens, and this “trend” comes off more as a useless and meaningless act of desperation than a welcomed nostalgia bomb that we’ve supposedly been waiting to have imploded in our mind.

Particular situations aside, the TV reboot trend, is totally the wrong approach.


Image via NBC Universal

About the Author

David Baruffi
David Baruffi
David Baruffi has been a successful unemployed screenwriter for, let's be vague and call it "years". He's got a B.A. in Film Studies from UNLV, is a certified script supervisor and has done a little bit of everything in film, but mostly is a writer. Personally on his own blog "David Baruffi's Entertainment Views and Reviews" which is at www.davidbaruffi.blogspot.com,and professionally has written several scripts and stories, for himself, and for others and as a ghostwriter. When he's not doing that he watches his autistic brother most days and he looks like two old puppets.



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